A chaperone for the stator units of a bacterial flagellum

Deborah A. Ribardo, Brittni R. Kelley, Jeremiah G. Johnson, David R. Hendrixson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


The stator units of the flagellum supply power to the flagellar motor via ion transport across the cytoplasmic membrane and generate torque on the rotor for rotation. Flagellar motors across bacterial species have evolved adaptations that impact and enhance stator function to meet the demands of each species, including producing stator units using different fuel types or various stator units for different motility modalities. Campylobacter jejuni produces one of the most complex and powerful flagellar motors by positioning 17 stator units at a greater radial distance than in most other bacteria to increase power and torque for high velocity of motility. We report another evolutionary adaptation impacting flagellar stators by identifying FlgX as a chaperone for C. jejuni stator units to ensure sufficient power and torque for flagellar rotation and motility. We discovered that FlgX maintains MotA and MotB stator protein integrity likely through a direct interaction with MotA that prevents their degradation. Suppressor analysis suggested that the physiology of C. jejuni drives the requirement for FlgX to protect stator units from proteolysis by the FtsH protease complex. C. jejuni ΔflgX was strongly attenuated for colonization of the natural avian host, but colonization capacity was greatly restored by a single mutation in MotA. These findings suggest that the likely sole function of FlgX is to preserve stator unit integrity for the motility required for host interactions. Our findings demonstrate another evolved adaptation in motile bacteria to ensure the equipment of the flagellar motor with sufficient power to generate torque for motility.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01732-19
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019


  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Chaperone
  • Flagellar motility
  • FlgX
  • MotA
  • MotB
  • Stator

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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